Want faster gains? If so, you should move slower. That’s right! It really can be that easy. We explain how and why this works while also giving you the exercises you need to succeed with each body part.
Want another awesome and proven way to increase your muscle size?
Of course, you do!
Sure there are plenty of weight training methods that work, and we have shown more than our fair share to the readers of Gym Junkies, but we’re nowhere near running out of ideas!
The fact is that switching up your routine once in a while and trying different methods can actually be quite beneficial.
Our bodies become accustomed to the same old routines pretty quick and by making even small changes, you will sort of shock your muscles into growth again.
Since our bodies adapt within a short amount of time, this can cause your muscle growth to slow or even completely level off. Needless to say, you do not want that to happen! That’s why it is best to keep adding challenges, advancements and new methods to your training.
Do not let your workout get too easy as you get stronger.
When this happens, you do not burn as many calories as you did when you started and you are no longer challenging the strength in your muscles. So let’s try something new and get those muscles pumping at full force once again!
Super Slow Weight Training Is Better For Growth
There are a few ways you can lift weights. We all know this. But, depending on your specific goal, the speed of the lift is going to affect a few things.
To begin with, if you are looking to burn more fat, but you’re not really into cardio, you can still get a cardio-like workout while you are lifting.
You really can! How?
All you have to do is speed up your reps, get your heart rate up and voila! You get the best of both worlds: Fat loss and muscle gain!
You’d definitely want to lift to failure with each set as you are going faster in your lifts. Why? The reason is because lifting to failure promotes muscle gain and that’s what you want. Those reps that burn the most are the ones that count, that’s for sure!
In order to place the focus solely on muscle gain, if you are not concerned with a quicker rate of fat loss, you should lift slowly. This is not to say you won’t decrease your body fat at all. You will, but a higher intensity/quicker lift gives you the afterburn effect as opposed to what you get from a slow and concentrated effort.
There are two things you should focus on during these slower reps: The concentric phase and the eccentric phase. The concentric phase is basically the lifting of the weight. If you guessed the eccentric phase is the lowering of the weight, you would be right. During both of these phases of the lift you should take it nice and slow to keep your muscles under tension. This will increase your strength in both directions.
There have been many studies that confirm that when it comes to building muscle, the eccentric phase of the lift is just as important as the concentric phase. So if you are concentrating more on the lifting portion, then dropping the weight down quickly, you are slowing down your progress and may even increase your chance for injury.
Don’t be one of those guys!
These Are All The Benefits Of Eccentric Strength
Remembering that the eccentric phase is the lowering portion of the lift, there are many great benefits in slowing down this phase. They are:
Eccentric Training Increases Micro Trauma
What does this mean?
Well, have you ever heard the term “breaking muscle” as someone is referring to lifting weights?
That’s because our muscle fibers literally tear and cause micro-trauma to happen. At this point, nutrients rush to the area to begin the repair process. Time and time again as you tear the muscle fibers through strength training, they will continue to be repaired (as long as your nutrition is on track) and these repairs are what packs on the muscle.
Improvements In Athletic Ability
If you’re training focuses mainly on the concentric phase of the exercise, you may be limiting yourself in your ability when it comes to sport.
The reason is because if your eccentric strength isn’t quite there, it can inhibit your slow down and stop movements. For instance, if you are playing football and running it towards the end zone, defense is coming at you hard and you want to throw in some fancy footwork and juke around them. You’ll need this stopping strength to do so.
Better Lifting Technique
Controlling your lift is one thing, but if you can’t control the weight on the way down, this can cause injury in many ways. For instance, if you’re performing a deadlift and you are at the top of your lift, locked out and ready to set the weight down, but have limited strength, you may just drop the weight down, or bounce it off the floor to start your next rep. The proper way to do this is slow and controlled and the problem may be that you just have too much weight to handle correctly. By correcting issues like these, you will build strength in your eccentric phase and be able to perform these exercises more efficiently and safely.
Improved Focus On Engagement
Slowing down and working on the eccentric phase as much as possible will help you to become more aware in your training. If you are normally working on explosiveness and power during your lifts, then slowing it down will let you focus more on body position and awareness. This will help you with form and engagement.
Let’s Talk About The Studies Of Super-Slow Weight Training
Studies say this and studies say that. Certainly, you’ve heard it more than a dozen times. Guess what? We’ve found more research to back up our assertions. You’re welcome!
In a study performed twice by Wayne Westcott, fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Massachusetts, three groups were examined. The first group was told to lift light, or what amounted to 50% of their one rep max. They were also told to lift very slowly in the concentric and eccentric phase.
The second group was told to go at high intensity or about 80% of their one rep max. They were also told to take only one second to lift, and one second to lower the weight. The third and final group was told to go light and use the same speed as the second group.
All three groups were performing three sets of eight reps using the leg extension machine. The study lasted for a full 12 weeks and the exercises were done on three non-consecutive days per week for those 12 weeks.
The first group built significantly more muscle than the heavy group.
The third group had no gains at all.
Why did the slow/light group do better you may ask?
Simple. The reason is because their total time under tension was about seven seconds per rep for eight total reps. If you do the math, you will find that brings the grand total to 56 seconds of continuous tension on the muscle.
When a muscle is held under tension for that length of time (no matter how heavy or light the weight is), there will be a large increase in hormone signaling. That promotes growth hormone in the body.
This type of slow rep training also boosts nitric oxide in the body and when your nitric oxide levels are increased, your blood vessels widen to increase blood flow and force-feed your muscles all the good stuff they need to grow.
Follow This Routine For More Gains
We get it: Lifters tend to be creatures of habit. Once you get into a certain routine, it pretty much goes the same way every, single time.
For many it can be tricky to switch up their routine and make certain changes. But, in the case of slowing down your reps, it’s going to be totally worth it and you will get used to it in no time at all.
As you go through this routine, you need to try to think about taking every rep extremely slow. Also, as you are lifting, you should be thinking about your body position.
For example, is your back straight?
Are the right muscles engaged?
Do you feel off balance in any way?
Does your hair look okay?
Maybe that last one doesn’t matter so much (to some people).
Considering all these things during your lifts will help you to take them more slowly. You also want to consider the exact same things on the way back down (eccentric phase), taking it slow and staying engaged.
Don’t forget: This is a full body routine. That means everything from head to toe and it should be done on three non-consecutive days per week. Of course, you can always split it up into days. For instance, you could always have a day for back and triceps, or abs and biceps. But it’s set this way to save on time and knock it all out at once.
Do These For Your Back
Bent-over barbell row 3 Sets X 8-10 Reps
Pull-up 3 Sets X 8-12 Reps
Seated cable row 3 Sets X 20 Reps
Do These For Your Biceps
Standing barbell curl 3 Sets X 8-10 Reps
Alternate dumbbell curl 3 sets X 8 Reps
Preacher curl 3 Sets X 8 Reps
Do These For Your Chest
Bench press 3 Sets X 8 Reps
Incline barbell press 3 Sets X 8 Reps
Dumbbell press 3 Sets X 10 Reps
Do These For Your Triceps
Parallel bar dip 3 Sets X 12 Reps
Lying dumbbell extension 3 Sets X 10 Reps
Pushdown 3 Sets X 10 Reps
Do These For Your Shoulders
Dumbbell press 3 Sets X 8 Reps
Behind neck press 3 Sets X 10 Reps
Upright row 3 Sets X 8 Reps
Do These For Your Calves
Standing calf raise 3 Sets X 15 Reps
Seated calf raise 3 Sets X 15 Reps
Donkey calf raise 3 Sets X 10 Reps
Do These For Your Legs
Barbell squat 3 Sets X 8 Reps
Leg press 3 Sets X 8 Reps
Hack squat 3 Sets X 10 Reps
Do These For Your Abs
Hanging leg raise 3 Sets X 10 Reps
Decline bench crunch 3 Sets X 15 Reps
Rope crunch 3 Sets X 10 Reps
One thing to note is that the exercises are listed in no particular order. Try and work in the larger muscles first, then transition down to the smaller muscle groups.
Always begin each workout with a good warm-up to ready the muscle for exercise. A warm-up will also increase your performance.
Your muscles will become more pliable and flexible allowing you to achieve your full range of motion with each exercise.
Afterward, be sure to cool down and hold a few stretches for all the major muscle groups. Stretching after a strength routine is beneficial in many ways. A lot of people tend to leave this part out, but it is important and also promotes muscle growth and flexibility.
Of course, you also need to be sure you are getting the proper amount of nutrition such as your carbs, fats and especially plenty of protein. Stay hydrated and remember to take it slow. If you can do that and stick to the program, you should see fast gains.
By Heather Neff, CPT